On Saturday, May 30th, the UFC returns to action from the UFC APEX center in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC on ESPN 9: Woodley vs Burns also known as UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs Burns.
The main event of the night is a battle of Top 6 welterweights as the top ranked Tyron Woodley returns to action to take on the #6 Gilbert Burns. The co-main event of the evening is a heavyweight bout between #12 Blagoy Ivanov and #13 Augusto Sakai.
In total, there are 11 fights scheduled for UFC on ESPN 9 which is set to kick off at 6 PM ET on ESPN and ESPN+. Online sportsbooks have released odds for the entire card. Let’s step inside the betting octagon, pinpoint any betting value, and TKO these predictions.
The preliminary card for UFC on ESPN 9 begins at 6 PM ET and features six bouts. This portion of the event will air on ESPN and ESPN+.
Chris Gutierrez vs Vince Morales
Chris Gutierrez (-115)
Vince Morales (-105)
Over (-320)/Under (+260) 2.5 rounds
Vince Morales comes into this contest as the slight underdog having gone 2-3 in his last five fights. He’s also just 1-2 in his UFC tenure having dropped his last fight nearly 11 months ago to Benito Lopez. Seven of his nine pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO.
Chris Gutierrez has gone 2-1 inside the octagon having won two straight fights after dropping his debut against Raoni Barcelos in November 2018. He’s gone 5-1 in his last six overall fights and is the slight favorite for this 135 pound matchup. Six of his 14 pro wins have come via TKO/KO.
The fight is set at an O/U of 2.5 rounds and I believe we’re going to see this contest go the distance. 11 of Gutierrez’s 19 pro fights have gone the distance. He’s 7-3-1 in those bouts. Morales has gone the full three rounds in four straight contests including all three UFC fights. Take Over 2.5 rounds (-320).
As for who wins, I am going with Gutierrez on that one as well. I believe “El Guapo” is going to land more strikes from a range and outpoint Morales for the unanimous decision victory.
Chris Gutierrez vs Vince Morales –Gutierrez (-115)
Over 2.5 rounds (-320)
Casey Kenney vs Louis Smolka
Casey Kenney (-265)
Louis Smolka (+225)
Over (-265)/Under (+225) 2.5 rounds
Smolka is a large underdog for this contest as he’s gone 5-1 in his last six fights, which includes a second stint with the UFC. Louis’ first stint saw an opening record of 5-1 in his first six octagon contests, but he then dropped four in a row and was bounced from the company.
Smolka returned to the UFC in November 2018 and has gone 2-1 inside the octagon during his second tenure with the promotion. His last fight was in September 2019 and he won via TKO over Ryan MacDonald. 14 of his 16 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of TKO/KO.
Kenney is 6-1 in his last seven fights including 2-1 inside the octagon. He already has impressive wins over Ray Borg and Manny Bermudez. Kenney dropped his last fight, which was three months ago, but still put on a good performance.
Over 2.5 rounds (-265) is the choice for this fight as 10 of Kenney’s 16 pro fights have gone the distance. He’s 7-2-1 in those contests. Smolka is 2-4 when going the distance.
I believe Kenney will counter punch his way to controlling the fight when upright. But, he has an even better chance of winning the fight inside the distance if he gets it to the mat where his top control will smother Smolka. I’m taking Kenney to win this bout by unanimous decision.
Casey Kenney vs Louis Smolka –Kenney (-265)
Over 2.5 rounds (-265)
Timothy Elliott vs Brandon Royval
Timothy Elliott (-165)
Brandon Royval (+145)
Over (-135)/Under (+115) 2.5 rounds
Brandon Royval is making his UFC debut after going 5-1 in his last six fights which were all with LFA. He did lose to Casey Kenny roughly 18 months ago, but has come back with two straight submission wins. Royval has scored submission victories in six of his 10 pro wins and is lethal on the ground.
Fortunately for Elliott, he’s also really good on the ground with grappling and wrestling skills. However, he has dropped four of his last six fights including two in a row. He’s 4-8 overall in the UFC and could be fighting for his spot in the company on Saturday night. A third straight loss could lead to getting fired.
For the third straight prediction of the prelims, I’m taking this fight to go the distance. So, go with the Over 2.5 rounds (-135) for this bout.
Elliott has proven that he can hang with the best of them both upright and on the mat. With that said, I think he will edge out Royval in what should be a very entertaining grappling contest. Take Elliott to win via unanimous decision.
Timothy Elliott vs Brandon Royval –Elliott (-165)
Over 2.5 rounds (-135)
Klidson Farias de Abreu vs Jamahal Hill
Klidson Farias de Abreu (+100)
Jamahal Hill (-120)
Over (-185)/Under (+160) 2.5 rounds
Abreu earned his UFC contract after winning six straight fights for four different promotions. Unfortunately, he’s only gone 1-2 inside the octagon with his last fight coming in November 2019. However, there are many pundits and fans that feel he was robbed in the split decision outcome.
Abreu has top notch grappling and submission skills, but tends to rely too much on his striking. That could get him in trouble against Hill. 10 of his 15 pro wins have come via submission. He’s only gone the distance in three of his 19 pro fights.
Hill is undefeated in his career and won his UFC debut in January via unanimous decision over Darko Stosic. He earned a UFC contract after beating Alexander Poppeck via 2nd round TKO on DWCS last July. Three of his four wins have come via TKO/KO, the other four have been by way of decision.
I’m taking the Under 2.5 rounds (+160) for this contest. Abreu barely goes the distance and two of Hill’s last three fights have finished before the end of the second round.
As for the winner, this all comes down to whether or not Hill can keep the fight upright. If he keeps it standing then he will win via TKO/KO. If Abreu gets it to the mat then he will win via submission.
For me, I am going with Abreu to get Hill on the mat and expose his lack of grappling ability. Abreu will snag a submission win before we get to the 3rd round. This fight has good betting value.
Klidson Farias de Abreu vs Jamahal Hill –Farias de Abreu (+100)
Under 2.5 rounds (+160)
Spike Carlyle vs William Quarantillo
Spike Carlyle (+125)
William Quarantillo (-140)
Over (+130)/Under (-150) 2.5 rounds
Spike Carlyle might be the underdog in this contest, but he has an awesome nickname – “Alpha Ginger.” Spike has won five straight fights including his UFC debut three months ago via 1st round TKO. Eight of his nine pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO.
William Quarantillo, also known as Billy, has won six straight fights including his appearance on DWCS last July and his UFC debut last December. 10 of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with five wins apiece for submissions and TKO/KO. He’s scored a stoppage win in six straight contests.
MMA betting sites favor this fight going Under 2.5 rounds (-150) and I agree. Combined, these two fighters have gone the distance in six of 25 total fights. Someone is getting the stoppage victory before the halfway point of the 3rd round.
I think Quarantillo’s pressure style will play into Carlyle’s strengths. He has the ability to counter strike, take a punch, and then take an opponent to the mat which I see happening here. Look for Carlyle to get Billy to the mat where he will either find a submission or gain top control and score a TKO.
Spike Carlyle vs William Quarantillo –Carlyle (+125)
Under 2.5 round (-150)
Katlyn Chookagian vs Antonia Shevchenko
Katlyn Chookagian (+115)
Antonia Shevchenko (-135)
Over (-535)/Under (+420) 2.5 rounds
In the prelim main event, we have a Top 12 women’s flyweight ballet as the 12th ranked Antonia Shevchenko takes on the 2nd ranked Katlyn Chookagian.
Katlyn Chookagian is 2-1 in her last three fights with the loss coming to Antonia’s sister Valentina Shevchenko in a world title fight. Valentina crushed Chookagian via 3rd round TKO. Chookagian is 6-3 in her UFC tenure and has gone the distance in 12 of her 16 pro fights.
Antonia Shevchenko, nicknamed “Pantera,” is 2-1 inside the octagon. She doesn’t have the same grappling skills as her sister does, but she is just as dangerous of a striker. Fortunately for Antonia, her opponent doesn’t have the ability to take the fight to the mat and grapple.
This contest will be a striking battle with the winner determined by how close Shevchenko can get to Chookagian. From a distance, Katlyn will outstrike her opponent with kicks and punches. However, in the clinch, Shevchenko will dominate the fight.
I expect this bout to go the distance, which will definitely be Over 2.5 rounds (-535). These two women have combined to go the full distance in 18 of their 25 total bouts.
As for the winner, I am leaning towards Antonia here. I believe she will be able to close the distance and weather any storms at first. She can take a punch on her way to the clinch or smothering Chookagian against the fence. Either way, it’s another Shevchenko family win over Chookagian.
Katlyn Chookagian vs Antonia Shevchenko –Shevchenko (-135)
Over 2.5 rounds (-535)
UFC on ESPN 9 Main Card
The main card for UFC on ESPN 9 will feature five fights and begin at 9 PM ET on ESPN and ESPN+.
Hannah Cifers vs Mackenzie Dern
Hannah Cifers (+345)
Mackenzie Dern (-430)
Over (-160)/Under (+140) 1.5 rounds
The opening bout of the main card features two Americans looking to climb up into the Top 15 in the women’s strawweight division. It’s also the fight with the biggest disparity in betting odds as Hannah Cifers is the largest underdog, while Mackenzie Dern is the largest favorite for the event.
Cifers made her UFC debut in November 2018 and has gone 2-2 inside the octagon. She last fought in January and lost via 2nd round TKO to Angela Hill. Prior to that, she was on a two fight winning streak with decision wins over Esquibel and Viana.Nicknamed “Shockwave,” five of Cifer’s 10 wins have come via TKO/KO.
Mackenzie Dern was undefeated until last October when she suffered the first loss of her career. Nevertheless, Dern is still a very talented fighter with incredible jiu-jitsu skills. Four of her seven wins have come via submission.
This fight is a clash of styles as Cifers will try to stand and strike it out, while Dern will navigate the sea of strikes to go for the takedown and lock in a submission hold. Whoever can succeed in their plan will win this fight.
For me, I am going with Dern. I believe she’s a better fighter with an elite grappling background that will prove to be too much for Cifers to handle. Well, that’s as long as she doesn’t eat too many fists along the way to scoring a takedown.
This O/U of 1.5 rounds is a tough call. It could end quickly. With that in mind, I am going to take the Over 1.5 rounds (-160) as Cifers might weather the takedowns in the opening round. However, I don’t see this fight going the distance (-240). I’m taking Dern to win via submission (-138) before the 3rd round begins.
Hannah Cifers vs Mackenzie Dern –Dern (-430)
Over 1.5 rounds (-160), Fight doesn’t go the distance (-240)
Dern wins via submission (-138)
Roosevelt Roberts vs Brock Weaver
Roosevelt Roberts (-335)
Brock Weaver (+275)
Over (-190)/Under (+165) 2.5 rounds
Brok Weaver will make his second trip inside the octagon as a large betting underdog. He won his UFC debut in February and looks to capture his second UFC victory. Weaver earned his contract with a DWCS win last August. He’s on an eight fight winning streak.
Roberts is the large betting favorite as he steps inside the octagon for the 5th time. He’s 3-1 in the UFC with his lone loss coming in June 2019 to Vinc Pichel via unanimous decision. He bounced back from his first career loss by defeating Yakovlev last November via unanimous decision.
Seven of his nine pro victories have come via stoppage with four by way of submission. However, he’s gone the distance in three straight bouts. 10 of Weaver’s 19 pro fights have gone the distance. He has a record of 8-2 in those contests.
Roberts feels that he can get the knockout or submission on Saturday against a tough opponent:
“(Weaver) is tough. He’s a tough dude who likes to brawl. I’m not worried. I’m going to go in there and do my thing, no matter who they put me in there with… He’s definitely got the gift of gab, that’s for sure. When we get in there, there ain’t going to be no more talking. There’s going to be these fists thrown. … I’m going to go in there and get the knockout or definitely a submission.”
The Over 2.5 rounds is favored here (-190) largely due to Weaver’s pension for going the full three rounds and because Roberts has gone the distance in three straight UFC fights. Despite what Roberts believes will happen, I’m taking the Over for this one as I believe this fight will go the distance (-145).
As for the winner, I like Roberts in this fight. I believe he will get the unanimous decision win (+125) as I feel he’s the better overall lightweight prospect between the two.
Roosevelt Roberts vs Brock Weaver –Roberts (-335)
Over 2.5 rounds (-190), Fight goes the distance (-145)
Roberts wins via decision (+125)
Daniel Rodriguez vs Gabriel Green
Daniel Rodriguez (-350)
Gabriel Green (+290)
This fight was originally scheduled to be Daniel Rodriguez versus Kevin Holland. Unfortunately, Holland was injured during training and not medically cleared for the bout. Rodriguez was a +180 underdog with Holland (-220). Now, he’s the clear favorite over Green.
Gabriel Green is stepping up on short notice to replace Holland as he makes his UFC debut on Saturday. Green has won six straight fights which includes stints in four different promotions. All nine of his pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of submission.
Daniel Rodriguez has won seven straight fights including his UFC debut in February via 2nd round submission over Tim Means. 10 of his 11 pro fights have ended via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO.
Due to these two fighters having only one total fight inside the octagon, there’s no Over/Unders listed for this contest. However, we do have the prop bet for whether or not this fight goes to a decision.
With that said, I don’t see this fight going the full three rounds (-365). Green has never gone to the judges, while Rodriguez has done it just twice. So, that’s a combined two times out of 23 total fights.
As for the winner, I have to go with Rodriguez in this bout. He looks like the better overall fighter and had a solid outing just three months ago in his UFC debut. I’m taking him to win via TKO/KO as both of Green’s losses have come via TKO/KO. I’m not even sure if we’ll see the 3rd round for this contest.
Daniel Rodriguez vs Gabriel Green –Rodriguez (-350)
Fight doesn’t go to decision (-365), Rodriguez wins via TKO/KO (-150)
Blagoy Ivanov vs Augusto Sakai
Blagoy Ivanov (-105)
Augusto Sakai (-115)
Over (-185)/Under (+160) 2.5 rounds
The co-main event of the night is a heavyweight showdown where both men are ranked in the Top 13 and close to even with MMA betting sites.
Blagoy Ivanov is the slight underdog, but has an impressive resume in his two years with the UFC. He’s 2-2 inside the octagon having lost to Derrick Lewis and Junior dos Santos both via decision. However, he has defeated Ben Rothwell and Tai Tuivasa via decisions. That’s a tough first four UFC fights for anyone.
The 12th ranked Ivanov is 7-3 in his last 10 fights, but has 12 stoppage victories out of 18 pro wins with six wins via submission and six via TKO/KO.
“I’m excited about this. I’m ready to go. His style is good and it’s an attractive and good fight. He will try and stay away from me along the cage so I don’t wrestle. I have a few tactics in mind but I’ll keep that secret. Everyone will see on Saturday. This is a huge fight to win. Sakai is still in the top-15, so a win here should put me in the top-10. I’m taking him into deep waters and he better be ready. His first loss in the UFC is coming on Saturday.”
This will be Sakai’s 4th fight in the UFC as he last stepped inside the octagon in September 2019. His most significant win was against Andrei Arlovski 13 months ago via split decision. He’s won five straight fights with his lone loss coming against Cheick Kongo in Bellator three years ago.
The 13th ranked Sakai will have a four inch height and four inch reach advantage in this contest. The Over 2.5 rounds (-185) is favored and I have to agree with this. I’m also thinking these heavyweights will go the distance (-155) as they’re both tough competitors.
I like Ivanov to win this fight via decision (+220). He’s gone up against four of the five most powerful heavyweight strikers and has taken their best punches without caving. He has a tough chin and I believe he will be able to withstand anything Sakai throws at him.
Once Ivanov can close the distance, I believe he will then score more points and eventually earn the victory.
Blagoy Ivanov vs Augusto Sakai –Ivanov (-105)
Over 2.5 rounds (-180), Fight goes to decision (-155)
Ivanov wins via decision (+220)
Tyron Woodley vs Gilbert Burns
Tyron Woodley (-175)
Gilbert Burns (+155)
Over (+150)/Under (-170) 4.5 rounds
Gilbert Burns has won five straight fights and could earn a future title shot if he can upset the favored Tyron Woodley. He’s 11-3 in the UFC and hasn’t lost in almost two years when Dan Hooker knocked him out in the 1st round. Since then, Burns has been a different fighter.
He’s shown the ability to stand and strike along with his elite jiu-jitsu. 14 of his 18 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of submission. He last fought in March and dominated Demian Maia via 1st round TKO.
Burns believes that he is a bad matchup for Woodley and is predicting that he will finish off Tyron on Saturday:
“I’m going to finish him. I don’t know if it’s going to be knockout or a submission, but I see a finish. It was good to grapple with Jake Shields and Demian, to train with Usman, to get feedback from these guys for Woodley. I can’t wait to fight this guy. I believe I’ll be able to finish Tyron Woodley.”
Woodley hasn’t fought since March 2019 when he was dominated by Kamaru Usman. The loss was so one-sided that people could be underestimating Woodley’s overall fight game. The former champ has run through many top competitors in multiple promotions and is hungry for another title shot.
“When people talk about the welterweight division I want them to think about me first, and then everyone else. That’s not what happened against Usman. I can’t go out like that. Now I need to go out on a spree and remind people what I’m made of, who I am and what I’ve done. That’s where I’m at mentally.”
Woodley has the third best takedown defense in UFC history and believes that will help prevent Burns from trying to make this a grappling contest. However, Woodley also has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and is a great wrestler. He also has the power and reach advantages in this fight.
This is an exciting matchup that will boost whichever fighter wins. I feel very comfortable in taking Woodley to get the victory as he still one of the best welterweights in the sport. My issue is trying to figure out how long this fight will go.
Since both men are fearless, and Woodley will most likely make this a stand-up fight, I predict we’ll see a TKO/KO victory for Tyron (+155) on Saturday night. I believe he will catch Burns with some vicious combos and take him out like he did Robbie Lawler, just not in the 1st round.
I’m going with Under 4.5 rounds (-170) as I don’t see this fight making it to the 5th round. Which also means the fight won’t go to a decision (-175).
With the victory, I see Woodley getting a rematch with Usman sooner than later. Perhaps, by the end of the year.
Tyron Woodley vs Gilbert Burns –Woodley (-175)
Under 4.5 rounds (-170), Fight doesn’t go to decision (-175)
Woodley wins via TKO/KO (+155)
UFC on ESPN 9 Final Thoughts
I am excited for this main event. Woodley and Burns are going to put on a great show for as long as the fight lasts. Both men have elite grappling skills and power in their fists. I believe Woodley has one last run in him for a title shot and I see his experience being the difference in this one.
The rest of the card is hit or miss for me. Although, I am interested in seeing how a few fighters perform like Roberts, Dern, Carlyle, Shevchenko and Kenney do.
As for betting value, there’s plenty of opportunities with this UFC event. MMA betting sites have numerous prop bets along with moneylines to choose from. Weekends are much more enjoyable when we have a solid UFC card to watch.
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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